How to Build Your Own DIY Digital Setting Circles

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DIY Digital Setting Circles

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You’ll need two rotary encoders, mounting hardware, and the Digital Setting Circles (DSC) unit itself. The encoders do vary in resolution. Therefore, a higher resolution makes the DSC more accurate. Attach the encoders to your telescope’s axes to enable them to sense the scope’s position as it moves. They also send pulses to the DSC unit, which has a computer used to convert the pulses into angular values and calculate telescope pointings. 

To help you better understand digital setting circles, let’s first look at what are digitals setting circles?

What are Digital Setting Circles?

The digital setting circles are markings visible on your telescope’s mount. There are more little computers that help you direct your telescope to locate a target astronomical object.

They help astronomers in discovering angles and the pointing direction of a telescope toward a particular object. Setting circles are paired with rotary encoders that make the function more accurate in measuring the telescope’s movements.

Additionally, the use of computers helps to monitor the movements and continuously send reports in the direction a telescope is pointing to the user. There is an electronic interface positioned between the rotary encoders.

All you need is to input your target coordinates or DSC’s catalog, and the DSC will calculate and show you numbers representing the angular distance to your target. 

You will have to move your telescope as you minimize those numbers to as close to zero as possible. At that point, your scope will be directly pointing at your target object.

There are more like GPS locators on your telescope for it to find its way to your target object.

What Does a Digital Settings Circle System Require?

As noted earlier your digital settings circle system will require the following objects: two rotary encoders, mounting hardware, and the DSC unit itself. The encoder types vary in resolution.

A higher resolution makes for a more accurate system. It sends pulses to the DSC, which has a computer used to convert these pulses into angular values and calculate the pointing directions of your telescope.

You will also need a decoder circuit that will monitor the encoder pulses and send corresponding instructions to the DSC. A computer (mobile device or PC) will also be required.

The computer will be running software with your telescope’s catalog of all objects in the sky. The software will convert angular values from encoders into a pointing direction to help you locate an object.

Steps to Build Your Own DIY Digital Setting Circles

To build the DIY Digital Circles, proceed as follows:

  1. Attach the encoders to your telescope’s axis and mount them securely with bolts or screws. You want to make sure they are securely mounted in order to make the encoders function accurate.
  2. Connect the rotary encoder outputs to a decoder circuit which will monitor for pulses from the encoder. This is then sent back into DSC as three different signals. Be sure to connect the appropriate leads from the encoder to their respective wires on DSC.
  3. Download a computer software that contains an astronomical object catalog of all objects in the sky; input target coordinates on the screen, click the “GO” button, and it calculates angular distance displayed (DD) in degrees, arcminutes, and arcseconds
  4. Set circles according to current location. Use latitude-longitude position data obtained from a GPS receiver. Make sure other settings are correctly configured before going forward by clicking Align DSC button
  5. Set the telescope to the Home position and press “S” on the DSC keyboard. Ensure that the telescope is pointing at the Pole Star or North Celestial Pole.
  6. Position your scope over coordinates of the target object, use DEC/RA setting circles for declination or RA setting circle respectively, depending if you are using a Northern hemisphere or Southern hemisphere. When magnitude numbers go down below 0.00 degrees, then it means that your scope is pointing at your desired object

How Long Will It Take to Build DIY Digital Setting Circles?

It will take approximately an hour to build your DSC system. However, if you have a telescope with a setting circle system, you can adjust and modify the settings to make it digitized.

It will take about an hour to calibrate your DSC for use with your scope.

What Are The Benefits Of Building Your Own DIY Digital Setting Circles?

Benefits of building your digital setting circles include:

You know exactly what kind of components go into making this gadget that’s going on top of your expensive telescope. If something goes wrong with any part built by someone else, then it would be challenging to fix it.

Building Digital Settings Circles gives you more control over the design of your DSC system, and you can customize everything according to what works best for you. You can customize everything according to what works best for you.

Also, you can build and calibrate your DSC to work with any telescope, which means that you won’t have to buy a new one. One more benefit of building the DIY Digital Setting Circles is that it will save you money because not only are materials for this project inexpensive but also if something goes wrong.

You can get replacements instead of having to go through the warranty process or buying a whole new system.

Tips on How to Use DIY Digital Setting Circles

Here are a few quick tips on how to best use your DIY DSC:

If you have a Northern hemisphere telescope, then use the RA setting circle for declination.

Use latitude-longitude position data obtained from the GPS receiver to set circles according to your current location and make sure other settings are configured correctly before proceeding with the Align DSC button. Position scope over coordinates of the target object.

When magnitude numbers go below 0 degrees, it means that your scope is pointing at the desired object.

Use DEC/RA setting circles for declination if using the Southern Hemisphere and the RA Setting Circle on Northern Hemisphere scopes, respectively, depending on which one you’re going to be using (Northern or Southern). But bear in mind that most telescopes will come in either an Equatorial mount style (Latitudes) or Altazimuth mount style (Latitude and Longitudes).

How Do I Know My DIY Digital Settings Circles are Working Properly?

You can test the DSC by finding a star and then using DEC/RA setting circles for declination or RA setting circles, respectively, depending on if you are using a Northern hemisphere or Southern hemisphere. When magnitude numbers go down below 0.00 degrees, then it means that your scope is pointing at your desired object.

If you’re unable to find an appropriate star, use something else such as planet Jupiter which should be visible on most nights of the year in either hemisphere. Use this same method but instead input coordinates of whatever target object (Jupiter) you want to point towards into computer software inside the telescope system before going forward with alignment processes.

Set circles according to the current location. Latitude-Longitude position data obtained from GPS receiver.

FAQs About DIY Digital Settings Circles

What is the difference between a Digital Setting Circle and an Autoguider

The difference between a DSC and an autoguider is that the former calculates angles with respect to the celestial pole. In contrast, an autoguider monitors the mount’s movement to calculate the same information.

What is a declination setting circle?

Declination Setting Circle enables you to manually adjust the telescope’s position on two axes, namely the right ascension and declination axis, to find targets of interest in the sky or near-Earth objects. This means that your scope is pointing at the desired object.

Do I Need Autoguider for DSC System?

No, it is not necessary, but if you want more precise alignment, then an autoguider would be a good investment. However, some telescopes have built-in autoguiders like Celestron CGEM series telescopes, so using them with DIY Digital Settings Circles will save time because these models already come calibrated out-of-box.

Will DIY DSC Improve my Telescope?

Yes. The DSC system will improve your telescope because you’ll have more accurate alignment. Note also that by building your own DSC system, you’ll have more control over the design of it and will be able to customize everything according to what works best for you and your telescope.

What are The main features of a Digital Setting Circle?

A DIY DSC system will have a declination setting circle, right ascension dial, and latitude-longitude display.

Final Thoughts

As we have discussed in this blog post, a DSC system is an improvement on the traditional setting circles. By building your own DIY Digital Setting Circles, you will have more control over its design and customize everything according to what works best for you and your telescope.

Again, a DSC system will improve your telescope because you’ll have more accurate alignment. Your telescope will not only be more accurate, but you’ll be able to find things in the sky more easily.

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful to you, next check out the telescope pier height guide to make sure you get it correct.


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